sartorias: (JRRT)
[personal profile] sartorias
There are many who say that the middle book of a trilogy is usually the worst—the one to skip—but I’ve often felt that that is true when a story is stretched to three books because trilogies cycled around to popularity again.

This is nothing new. My own theory (which is probably crackpot) is that the three volume novels so popular two hundred years ago were the direct descendant of Aristotle’s Poetics. I think that many who grew up reading books and plays that roughly corresponded with Aristotle’s form tend to storytell in three acts.

However, I believe that many writers who grew up on TV, with its four act structure divided into fifteen minute segments (before commercials ate up more and more time in the one-hour drama, which is now, what, thirty-two minutes?) never took in this rhythm. And so stories that might have fallen more naturally into two books, each with its climactic moments, got stretched to three, with the middle one a whole lot of filler.

Anyhow, whether that is truth or hot air, my point is that this middle book, or pair of books, of LOTR contains some of my favorite arcs of the entire story. I don’t find any of it to be filler.

Which brings me to the next chapter: Faramir.

He’s so complex, and (I think, anyway) could easily have served as the central hero to a story I would very much like to have read. He first seems dangerous, certainly inscrutable, especially when he begins to interrogate Frodo.

“See here, Captain!” Sam planted himself squarely in front of Faramir, his hands on his hips, with a look on his face as if he was addressing a young hobbit who had offered him what he called “sauce” when questioned about visits to the orchard.

There was some murmuring, but also some grins on the faces of the men looking on the sight of their Captain sitting on the ground and eye to eye with a young hobbit, legs well apart, bristling with wrath, was one beyond their experience . . .


Sam chews Faramir out good, which Faramir excepts without anger. He keeps his temper—and his own counsel—and though his loyalty to his brother, father, and Gondor are absolutely unquestioned, he is familiar with a great deal outside those borders: unlike Boromir, he betrays no mistrust of Lothlorien, and he also betrays no surprise when he discovers Frodo’s true purpose—and he makes no motion toward taking the Ring.

In short, the two hobbits are absolutely in his power, but we gradually discover that they are safer with him than they were with Boromir.

Another thing I thought interesting: before he and his rough riders eat, Faramir’s company face west for a moment of silence.

“So we always do,” he said as they sat down. “We look toward Numenor that was, and beyond to Elvenhome that is, and to that which is beyond Elvenhome and will ever be.”

Here again is the numinous glimmering so briefly, hinting at JRRT’s greater paradigm. And I find it so interesting that we never met it with Gandalf, or Galadriel, or even Aragorn.

Final point, he offers a history, and with it this judgment (including himself): “Yet now, if the Rohirrim are grown in some ways more like to us, enhanced in arts and gentleness, we too have become more like to them, and can scarce claim any longer the title High. We are become the Middle Men, of the Twilight, but with memory of other things.For as the Rohirrim do, we now love war and valour as things good in themselves, both a sport and an end; and though we still hold that a warrior should have more skills and knowledge than only the craft of weapons and slaying, we esteem a warrior, nonetheless, above men of other crafts.”

So Gollum is captured, and Faramir releases him into Frodo’s company rather than killing him, but warns Frodo not to go to Cirith Ungol.

The three depart again, and once more we get that shifting balance of power as Gollum leads them toward the crossroads.

When they reach it, they get one last brief glimpse of beauty as the sun is sinking in the west: he saw, beyond an arch of boughs, the road to Osgiliath running almost as straight as a stretched ribbon down, down, into the west. There, far away, beyond sad Gondor now overwhelmed in shade, the sun was sinking, finding at last the hem of the great slow-rolling pall of cloud, and falling in an ominous fire towards the yet unsullied sea.

The last light falls on a statue ruined by violent hands. Graffiti is scrawled over it by “the maggot-folk of Mordor”, and the head knocked off. But the head of this statue of a long-ago king has been crowned by flowers.

“They cannot conquer forever,” Frodo thinks—but then darkness falls.
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